The hanging of Afzal Guru has prompted the Uttar Pradesh government to beef up security in and around the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, where nearly two crore people are expected to be converging over the next 24 hours to take a dip on what is considered the ‘most auspicious’ day of the 55-day-long festival that began on January 14.
One crore devotees were officially stated to have taken the “holy dip” on the banks of the holy ‘Sangam’ on Saturday, which marked the commencement of ‘Mauni Amavasya’ --when the heavens were believed to shower ‘amrit’ (the holy nectar) at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.
While 25,000 policemen were routinely deployed to provide security across the sprawling 58 sq km sandy river banks, where the Kumbh Mela is being held, the state government ordered additional deployments in the wake of Guru’s hanging which came as a big surprise to all and sundry.
Special dog squads have been pressed into service at various places in the Kumbh Mela areas and Anti-Terrorist Squads have been kept in readiness at different locations to meet any contingency as also to carry out screening and search at very short notice.
The state government has rushed a helicopter from Lucknow for aerial surveillance over the entire Kumbh area. Top cops from Lucknow undertook long sorties over the entire ‘Sangam’ banks as well as other far off bathing ghats along the Ganga where a sea of humanity began converging from Saturday morning itself.
“We cannot afford to take any chances, so we have got some additional close-circuit cameras installed at strategic spots to keep a strict vigil in the entire area,” said a top police official in Lucknow.
According to Kumbh Mela Senior Superintendent of Police R K S Rathore, “Security checks have been intensified at each of the six entry points to Allahabad city, besides the railway stations and bus stops and orders have been issued for maintaining a round-the-clock vigil in the entire area.”
He said, “Cops have been told to promptly screen any suspicious looking persons or objects in the Mela area.”
Apart from usual devotees who were turning up in mammoth numbers, Sunday will mark the third ‘shahi snan” of the season.